In Pensacola Beach, the Coast Guard braces for a Category-5 hurricane that has entered the Gulf of Mexico. During a routine patrol of the waterways, the aircrew spots a massive fishing cooler floating a mile offshore. The guards suspect that the icebox contains smuggled drugs, but when they open it, they’re shocked. It is filled with body parts. Criminal profiler Maggie O’Dell is sent to investigate as the rest of Florida holds its breath for the storm’s impending arrival. Eventually, Maggie is able to trace the torso in the cooler back to a man who mysteriously disappeared weeks earlier after a hurricane hit Port St. Lucie, on the Atlantic side of Florida. How, then, did his body end up six hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico? Cliffhanger chapters, behind-the-scenes forensic details, colorful characters, and satisfying twists have become the trademarks of Alex Kava’s psychological thrillers. In Damaged she ratchets up the suspense by sending Maggie into the eye of a monster storm to track down a killer.
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Steve Berry Reviews Damaged
Steve Berry is the author of six thrillers in the bestselling Cotton Malone series (The Templar Legacy, The Alexandria Link, The Venetian Betrayal, The The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Paris Vendetta, and The Emperor's Tomb), and three stand-alone thrillers (The Amber Room, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Third Secret). Read his guest review of Damaged:
Alex Kava is a master. Her heroine, Special Agent Maggie O'Dell, is one of the classic characters of the thriller genre. Maggie's adventures have taken her to small-town America, and into the Catholic Church, bringing her face-to-face with some sick individuals. But that's her job. She's a criminal profiler. And good at it. Now, in Damaged, Maggie is thrust into the eye of an impending monster hurricane to track down another killer.
Alex Kava has a knack for the macabre. This time she hooks the reader when a fishing cooler is found floating in the Gulf of Mexico filled with a human torso, one foot, and three hands, all tightly wrapped in plastic. Despite the fact that a Category 5 hurricane is just off shore, and headed her way, Maggie is sent to investigate. Resources are limited. All law enforcement is focused on evacuation and emergency preparations. It's Maggie's job to find out what's going on, but when she discovers that the remains belong to a man who mysteriously disappeared weeks earlier, after another hurricane hit on Florida’s Atlantic Ocean side, the real trouble begins.
There's a ton more to this story, but I don't want to give away too much. Let's just say that it's unexpected. Once again Alex Kava has concocted a tale similar to speeding at a hundred miles an hour down a giant slalom course, with all its associated twists and turns. The whole thing starts fast and gets faster. Maggie O'Dell is a brilliant and complicated heroine--at once witty, smart, and detailed, but always highly entertaining. Damaged is a book from a writer who knows how to deliver exactly what readers want. Alex Kava is in the top echelon of suspense masters and this one is not to be missed.
Questions for Alex Kava on Damaged
Q: Where did the inspiration for Damaged come from? Why did you decide to send Maggie O’Dell into the path of a deadly hurricane?
A: In spring of 2004 I bought a house on the bay just outside of Pensacola. Six months later Hurricane Ivan hit. Nine months after that, it was Dennis. I’ve lived most of my life in tornado country so I thought I was prepared for hurricanes. The anxiety and anticipation is excruciating. And nothing prepares you for the aftermath. It’s hard to explain. It may sound a bit clichéd but there’s a transformation that takes place when you experience something like that, especially as a community. I’ve been wanting to throw Maggie into the path of a hurricane ever since.
Q: You write in great detail about FBI processes and forensic investigations. How did you do research in these areas?
A: Real experts are still the best sources of information. I've been very fortunate to have contacts in a variety of law enforcement and forensic fields, people I can call or email with questions. Some have become close friends who share details of their cases with me over dinner. I’ve also had the privilege of visiting Quantico, and was able to spend some time down in the Behavioral Science Unit talking to special agents who do every day what I only write about.
What I don’t know, I read, constantly. I now have an extensive library of my own and anyone who checked my laptop’s cache would probably be shocked to see the types of websites I surf on a regular basis.
Q: In Damaged, you write about the black market for human organs. Where did that idea come from and how did you research?
A: Several years ago I read a special report in USA Today about the illegal body parts business. It mentioned a case in Brooklyn involving a body broker and several funeral homes that were stealing tissue and bone from corpses, in some instances, replacing the bones with PVC piping and hiding the theft by sewing the bodies back up. Sometimes entire bodies were stolen instead of being sent to the crematory. The indictment charged that as many as 1,000 bodies may have stolen by this one group.
It fascinated me how greed could literally eviscerate a solemn practice that we take for granted and expect to be treated with dignity and respect.
From then on I started searching for and saving anything I could find on the subject. I read several books including Annie Cheney’s Body Brokers and Kathy Braidhill’s Chop Shop.
Q: Tell us about Maggie O’Dell. Where did the inspiration for her character come from, and is she based on a real life person?
A: I never intended for Maggie to be a series character, so she’s had to evolve and reveal herself to me with each novel. In the beginning with A Perfect Evil Maggie was a tough, young FBI agent driven much more by impulse and passion. She’s matured a bit, though still driven to do the right thing. I think Maggie’s a lot more accepting of who she is and less apologetic of how she goes about doing her job.
She’s not, however, based on any one person and although she and I share some personality traits--our unintentional abuse of fine leather shoes and our love of college football--Maggie’s certainly not my alter ego. For one thing she’s much braver than I am.
Q: Critics and fans alike have found your heroine, Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, very appealing. What is it about her that readers can’t get enough of?
A: I have to admit I’m not sure what it is, because sometimes Maggie drives me crazy. What I hear from readers is they like that Maggie’s not a superhero. They can relate to her. Yes, she might be an excellent profiler but she failed at her marriage and struggles with her personal relationships. She has flaws. She makes mistakes. But the bottom line is that Maggie does the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing, even when it gets her in trouble or puts her in danger. I think readers admire that about her.
Q: What’s next? Can you give us a preview of your next novel, and will we see more of Maggie O’Dell?
A: Maggie will be back in Hotwire. Her boss sends her to the Midwest to investigate cattle mutilations in the area and Maggie stumbles upon a bizarre triple murder of some local teenagers.
ALEX KAVA’s two stand-alone novels and seven novels featuring FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell have been published in more than twenty countries, appearing on the bestseller lists in Britain, Australia, Poland, Germany, and Italy. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Alex divides her time between Omaha, Nebraska, and Pensacola, Florida.
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